The shocking truth about Napoleon Hill – the author of ‘Think and Grow Rich’, the founder of the ‘self help’ book line: Being a fraud no less, life is more dramatic than movies

According to Gizmodo author Matt Novak, “Think and Grow Rich” self-help author Napoleon Hill is perhaps the most famous fraudster of all time. This businessman born into a poor family in rural Virginia gave birth to the fascinating line of “Self Help” books and helped many people rise from the words of his heart.

Although Hill’s book has been extremely famous and circulated in the business world, especially real estate dealers, according to Novak’s investigation, Hill’s life has a lot of mysterious stories that the books don’t have. His book makes no mention of it.

In fact, Hill’s public information until before Novak’s investigation was somewhat advertising, that everyone should follow their dreams, persevere and success will come. Of course, many people have followed suit and have been really successful, but the purpose of this article is not to criticize the book but to highlight the life of a fraud tycoon who writes books to get rich.

Napoleon Hill and the book that made him famous

The author of the article Novak himself spent 2 years tracking down Hill’s life and he was really surprised with what he found. Despite contacting CEO Donald M Green of the Napoleon Hill Foundation, Novak did not receive active cooperation. In return, all CEO Green introduced was a book ad and offered to “donate” $5,000 for a tour of Hill’s hometown in Wise-Virginia.

Napoleon Hill’s books are selling more now than they did when he died in 1970‘, CEO Green told journalist Novak when he met again in 2014.

Because the original investigation is too long, we would like to summarize the main ideas about the secret history that Novak found.

Life’s first tricks

Oliver Napoleon Hill was born in 1883 in Virginia, the son of an unlicensed dentist-James Hill and a smuggler, Mrs. Sara. At the age of 9, Hill’s mother died of illness and his father went out with his stepmother, Martha.

According to the books written about Hill’s life, he married at the age of 15 after getting a little girl pregnant under the pressure of his furious father-in-law. But not long after the wedding, the bride admitted that Hill was not the father of the child.

Although this marriage was annulled later, it left the first wound of Hill’s life.

At the age of 17, although his family was poor, under Martha’s house arrest, Hill graduated from high school and went to Virginia to attend college. During this time he had a part-time job and was appointed as the manager of a 350-person mine by businessman Rufus Ayres. Honesty and meticulous calculation to each number is said to be the reason why Hill was promoted. At this time, Hill was only 19 years old.

However, according to what the New York Times recorded in 1995, Hill was involved in a murder cover-up and for this, Ayres rewarded the 19-year-old boy with the job of mine manager.

By the period 1903-1908, the books written about Hill’s life during this time were omitted quite a lot. Most said that he graduated from university with a law degree, worked as a part-time reporter and was a manager for a wood company.

The shocking truth about Napoleon Hill the author of Think and Grow Rich the founder of the self help book line Being a fraud no less life is more dramatic than movies | Living

Napoleon Hill in his youth

But from the newspapers that Novak collected during this time, the truth about Hill gradually became clear. In 1903, Hill married Edith Whitman and gave birth to a daughter in 1905. Hill’s family life was full of violence and instability.

In June 1907, Hill came to Alabama and engaged in timber trading with a business named “The Acree Hill Lumber Company” according to records. In 1908, he was arrested for fraudulently paying by check but was later released after paying damages.

But Hill’s biggest scam started with the timber trade. In the same 1908, Hill bought bearwood (unpaid) from quite distant sources such as Georgia, Florida, Indiana… to bring back for dumping in Alabama. Of course, he only accepts cash, not checks.

By the second half of 1908, word of Hill’s fraud spread in the timber trade and creditors rushed to find him, but Hill fled the office in September 1908. This was confirmed in the Pensacola Journal of October 17, 1908:ONHill’s absence as director of Acree Hill Lumber is worrying creditors. Mr. Hill has not been in the office since September 8“.

Meanwhile, an investigation by the Lumberman newspaper published on November 1, 1908, revealed that Hill had told his secretary that he had visited several lumber mills, only to disappear.

Hill’s arrest warrant was issued by the Alabama State Court, and his timber company was also foreclosed on. However, Noval has not found out how this scammer got away with the crime.

All we know now is that in December 1908, Hill fled to Washington, D.C., changing his last name with a fabricated story about his background, as auto expert, teacher Educator, Sales Specialist…

This is the time when Hill officially used the new name Napoleon Hill instead of having the last name Oliver as before.


According to what Hill recorded in his autobiography, 1908 was the pivotal year when he met the legendary billionaire Andrew Carnegie. It was through instilling the rich secrets and principles of success from Carnegie that Hill developed a mindset about getting rich.

According to Hill, it was Carnegie who introduced him to other successful businessmen in the US to interview how they got rich, from Thomas Edison, Henry Ford to Alexander Graham Bell. The work took 20 years and Carnegie didn’t pay him, instead Hill could learn from these entrepreneurs.

The shocking truth about Napoleon Hill the author of Think and Grow Rich the founder of the self help book line Being a fraud no less life is more dramatic than movies | Living

All of the above statements of Hill according to Novak are complete lies. This journalist’s investigation revealed that most of Hill’s 1908 was filled with evasion from the authorities due to his involvement in divorce cases, fraud and property disputes.

The journalist Novak said that Carnegie’s most respected biographers claim that the two men have never met, and the details of their conversation or Carnegie’s advice in Hill’s book are completely different. is fabricated.


In fact, Hill had to flee creditors in 1908. Entering 1909, he founded the “Automobile College of Washington” with the advertisement in the newspapers that it only took 6 weeks of training. can turn an ordinary person into a skilled car assembler, which is extremely short of manpower.

Students are committed to receive about 75-200 USD/week (equivalent to 5,000 USD at current exchange rate) after finishing the course and going to work. This is corroborated in the Washington Post on October 10, 1909.

However, according to Novak’s investigation, this school is simply a place to recruit free labor for auto factories. Trainees will have to pay “tuition” for Hill to assemble at the Carter Motor Corporation plant in Washington branch. Genuinely Carter had an agreement with Hill to pay these cheap workers. So, fraud boss Hill took money from both sides during the years 1910-1911.

Also during this time, Hill married a third time with a rich lady.

But Hill’s fraud broke out in 1912 when Carter’s car company went bankrupt due to poor quality, especially when the workers were full of novices who did not understand what they were doing, while many students accused Hill of cheating money. Surname.

The shocking truth about Napoleon Hill the author of Think and Grow Rich the founder of the self help book line Being a fraud no less life is more dramatic than movies | Living

However, Hill quickly appeased public opinion by changing direction, instead of training them to assemble cars, to instruct them to sell cars.

Motor World in 1912 ran an article about Hill’s unusual course, promising each student $4,800 a year or $400 in commissions for a $2,250 car.

What is surprising is that each student will earn an additional 3 USD for each new person they refer to this sales line. This model is no different from multi-level selling today.

Despite efforts and a $4,000 loan from a wealthy wife’s family, Hill’s vocational school still went bankrupt in 1912. He had to move back to his wife’s in-laws in Lumberport. . Not long after, thanks to his wife’s family relationship, he applied for a job as a lecturer at LaSalle Extension University in Chicago, although Hill himself had never graduated or worked in this field.

(To be continued)

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